Moluccas: Muslims and Christians work together for peace

 Civil and religious leaders are taking steps to defuse tensions in the aftermath of several violent attacks against Christians in the Moluccas Islands. Last month three Protestant school girls were beheaded and a fourth was injured in Poso, in nearby Sulawesi, and more recently in Ambon a bomb exploded near a church. Police and the army are patrolling public places and buildings, and there are strict controls at road blocks. Commentators fear a new outbreak of the conflict which devastated Moluccas and Sulawesi between 1999 and 2002. Both Muslim and Christian leaders in the area say politics not religion was the motivation behind the barbarous killings in Poso. Catholic Bishop Joseph Suwatan in Poso, said investigators suspect extremists acting as "a third party" to provoke uncontrolled reaction from one of the sides. However the Bishop said Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, were determined not to react and to keep the peace despite the horrendous attack on the innocent school girls. In the past two years there have been very good relations between Christians and Muslims. Recently the Muhammadia School di Ambon added seven Christian teachers to its staff and Muslim teachers may soon be asked to teach in Christian schools. In Ambon, the end of Ramadan was celebrated in many places with an interweaving of different religious communities united in the name of dialogue, tolerance, peace and celebration. The Catholic Bishop of Ambon diocese, Petrus Canisius Mandagi took part. On the eve of the important Muslim festivity the Bishop had urged Christians to take part in the celebrations and create a peaceful atmosphere. Source: Fides

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